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Mr. Chope: I endorse what has been said by my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Leigh). I, too, thank the hon. Member for Hamilton, South for the co-operative and common-sense way in which he has approached the Bill. It is a pity that it was not considered in more detail in Committee: I think that there is a lesson to be learnt from that, and applied to other private Members' Bills. The Minister said on Second Reading that she expected this Bill to be considered in detail in Committee, but it was not, which is probably why today's debate took so much longer than it need have.

We have established today that the Government, the promoter, the sponsors and the House do not want the decibel limit to be below 120. I am grateful to the Minister for her undertakings in that respect, and to the promoter, because the decibel limit has been the major concern. Until today an ambiguity has been built into our discussions, but we have now resolved the difference between those who wanted a 95 dB limit and those who wanted a limit of 120 dB. We have, I believe, decided in favour of common sense and a much more liberal regime than we would otherwise have had.

We have achieved quite a lot today, although at greater length than some of us would have wished. I hope that in future there will be no need for such prolonged Report stages, because Bills will have been considered properly in Committee.

1.52 pm

Miss Melanie Johnson: I am pleased with the enthusiastic reception and positive co-operation that the Bill has been given and the progress that it has made so far. That includes what has been done today. I join others in congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton, South (Mr. Tynan) on his excellent stewardship of the Bill. I also congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Linda Gilroy) on her earlier work on the subject.

As for what the hon. Member for Twickenham (Dr. Cable) said about his leader's birthday party, I trust that a focus leaflet will be published shortly saying that this

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issue will be addressed as a result of Liberal Democrat activity. This is the standard to which we have become used.

Mr. Keith Bradley (Manchester, Withington): May I add some congratulations of my own? The Manchester Evening News has run an excellent campaign in support of the Bill, which I am sure helped to secure the Government's support.

Miss Johnson: I, too, congratulate that newspaper, and the many other regional papers that have run similar campaigns which have increased support for the Bill.

The Bill enables us to plug a serious gap. If fireworks are supplied in an irresponsible manner and are used thoughtlessly and irresponsibly, for many people "fun and joy" does not serve as an accurate description of the nuisance, fear and distress that can be caused. Some sections of the public want over-the-counter firework sales to be banned, while some go further and want fireworks themselves to be banned. As I have said, those are not realistic options and that is not the purpose of the Bill.

The Bill gives us a solid base on which to build new firework regulations. They will not prevent individuals from buying and using fireworks in a responsible way; what the Bill seeks to minimise is the irresponsible supply and antisocial use of fireworks. It will allow us, for the first time, to produce firework regulations that will make sensible controls possible.

The Bill has been supported by organisations of all kinds, including the fireworks industry. The British Fireworks Association, which represents the main firework-importing companies, and the British Pyrotechnists' Association, which mostly represents display operators, have supported it so far, and are keen for the industry to have a well-balanced body of legislation with which to comply. Hon. Members on both sides of the House have expressed concerns. I trust that the hard work that has gone into the Bill this morning and on previous occasions means that the right balance will be struck. I wish the Bill a good passage when it reaches the other place.

1.55 pm

Mr. Tynan: With the leave of the House, I would like to place on record my thanks to everyone here, to the voluntary organisations, to the various individuals and to the press throughout the country who have supported the Bill. It is important that we recognise their contribution.

There has been a genuine attempt this morning to deal with the issues of concern. I believe that we can allay the fears of hon. Members on both sides of the House and that the Bill will make a meaningful contribution to the control of the misuse of fireworks. I thank hon. Members again for their assistance.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed.

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Human Fertilisation and Embryology (Deceased Fathers) Bill

Order for Third Reading read.

1.56 pm

Mr. Stephen McCabe (Birmingham, Hall Green): I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

It is a pleasure to move that the Bill be read the Third time. I confess that I was anxious earlier that we might not have had this opportunity. I hope that there is such good will for the measure among hon. Members on both sides of the House that we will be able to use the time available economically and efficiently.

I said on Second Reading that I did not believe that the issue was particularly contentious. I think that the debates on the Bill so far have tended to show that. I am grateful to hon. Members on both sides of the House for their help and support for this small but significant measure. It is a short Bill with a simple purpose that is wholly compassionate. It will permit a man's name to be entered as a child's father on the birth certificate when the child has been born following fertility treatment after the man has died.

The Bill is not deeply concerned with underlying philosophical and ethical fertility treatment issues. I recognise that they are very important issues for many people but this Bill seeks only to make a relatively simple change for the purpose of birth registration. The change proposed is symbolic only. It will not confer on the children any inheritance or other legal rights. Nevertheless, hon. Members will know of mothers, children and grandparents for whom this is a very important recognition. I pay tribute to the people who have campaigned long and hard on the issue.

This is the second time that a Bill with essentially the same provisions has reached Third Reading in this House. I hope and believe that, as a result of the scrutiny to which the measure has been subjected, it has been significantly improved. Some straightforward amendments were made in Committee to allow additional flexibility where the mother cannot register the birth herself, perhaps due to the tragedy of death in childbirth, or serious illness leading to incapacity. As a result, the amended Bill is more in line with current registration practice. I proposed those amendments largely as a precaution. As I said in Committee, I hope that those circumstances will be extremely rare.

I fully understand the issues that some hon. Members have raised about the Bill's retrospective provisions. That is hardly surprising as legislation is rarely made for retrospective purposes. In this case, however, I believe that it is right that the Bill should apply to existing as well as future cases. I hope that Members will be reassured that it does so in a way that sends an appropriate signal for the future, particularly in terms of the clear process that will have to be followed.

Mr. Eric Forth (Bromley and Chislehurst): I am not asking for an exact figure, but can the hon. Gentleman give us a rough idea of how many cases the Bill would apply to retrospectively? I suspect that it is a very small number, but it would be helpful to know even at this stage of the Bill's consideration.

Mr. McCabe: I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. As he rightly says, there is no way of coming

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up with an absolutely accurate figure. However, we believe that the provisions could apply to about 30 children, and possibly fewer. I hope that that makes the position clear.

Fundamentally, the Bill represents a crucial opportunity for the House to put right earlier attempts to deal with such legislation. That is long overdue and, in reality, what we are doing is righting a wrong. The original intentions were never to prevent a father's name from appearing on a birth certificate. It is clear that the original architects of the Bill were concerned about inheritance and succession rights, and we can all understand that. All that I am seeking to do is ensure that the father's name appears on the child's birth certificate. That is a symbolic recognition; no issues of inheritance or succession are allowed. I commend the Bill to the House.

2.2 pm

Chris Grayling (Epsom and Ewell): I congratulate the hon. Member for Birmingham, Hall Green (Mr. McCabe) on the way in which he has stewarded this Bill to Third Reading. It is obviously an evocative and sensitive issue, and he has managed it well.

We know that the origin of the Bill is the situation that faced Diane Blood. However, as the hon. Gentleman rightly points out, many children and families—we do not know exactly how many—have been affected by the circumstances that the Bill seeks to cover. It is right to say that the House would wish to do the right thing by those children. Therefore, Conservative Members have welcomed and supported the Bill right the way through the proceedings on it.

I raised with the hon. Gentleman two concerns on Second Reading. I would like to put on record the way in which my concerns have been responded to. First, the hon. Gentleman has dealt well with the Bill's retrospective elements. They will not create an open-ended process for the future, but they acknowledge that some children today cannot, as a result of the lack of such legislation, have their position clarified. I am now comfortable with the Bill's retrospective elements.

I also want to put on record my concerns about the proposed new section 28 (5D) of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990. I shall explain why I ultimately decided not to object to that. It allows an unmarried couple who have gone through fertility treatment using another man's sperm—the treatment may even have taken place outside the UK—to benefit from the provisions of the Bill. On reading that, my first thought was, "Hang on a moment. This is going a bit too far."

The hon. Gentleman has set aside my concerns for two reasons. First, he pointed out that the provision is reflected in the existing human embryology legislation. It already exists in law. That is fine but my challenge to him was that, in cases covered by the existing legislation, the child would get to know the father, so there would be a bond between the father and the child. In a case in which the father had predeceased the child, that would not be the position. We had a long conversation about the matter and agreed that there are circumstances in which such a measure must be necessary.

It is because of those circumstances that the hon. Gentleman has my support for that aspect of the Bill even though it causes me some anxiety. There may be

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cases in which, for example, a partner in a relationship, perhaps a marriage, is in a long-term coma from which he is unlikely to recover. If the other partner forms a new relationship but does not want to get divorced because of the particular circumstances, she may be caught up in the situation addressed in the Bill. That is an unlikely circumstance, but unlikely is not never. In such a situation, which would be brought about by tragedy rather than by personal choice, it is right and proper that we should acknowledge the rights of the child. For that reason, following my discussion with the hon. Gentleman, I am happy not to challenge new section 28(5D).

The measure is welcome. It will right a wrong and is overdue. I am delighted that it has had such a smooth process through the House. I congratulate the hon. Gentleman and all those who worked with him on their work. I wish the Bill well when it reaches another place and hope that it receives Royal Assent before too long.

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